6/07/2013

c.1963 Harmony H1201TG Tenor Guitar




This is the tenor guitar sidekick of the same-period Harmony "Sovereign" 6-string model. This means, as far as Harmony products go, that it sat on the "up-market" end of the scale. It's obvious it does because the materials are quite nice -- a solid spruce top over a solid mahogany back, sides, and neck. The fretboard appears to be some sort of dyed hardwood in the true "Harmony fashion," however.

It's got a 23" scale on a 0-sized body which means it's very suited to chord-melody or lead work in its standard tuning (CGDA) but will also work great for "octave mandolin" GDAE tuning and "Chicago" DGBE tuning, which is what I've got it strung up with right now. As usual, though, I've slotted the nut to suit any string gauges regularly used on tenor instruments (including a wound A for GDAE).

This came in today and I was amazed at what good shape it was in. This probably had to do with the fact that it seems to have lived as a large baritone uke for some part of its life (it came with nylon strings on it for DGBE tuning). There are no in-wood cracks but there's certainly plenty of small dings and nicks and finish weather-checking and lacquer cracking throughout. Work included a fret level/dress, tuner lube, setup, and some small adjustment at the bridge (I shaved the top of it to lower the original fret saddle a tad). It plays great with a hair above 1/16" action at the 12th fret (that's perfect on these guys).

Tone-wise, if I didn't already have a nice old 30s Cromwell tenor, I'd probably hold this one aside. It really does sound quite nice and gets a great "old-timey" dig to the sound for lead playing. I've been wanting to pick up one of these guitars for the shop for a long time but I didn't want to grab one that was too beat up -- which is the state these are mostly found online or at yard sales.


Everything on the guitar is original, right down to the bridge pins. I love how the finish has yellowed up to that buttery color old guitars tend to wear. The top on this guy is ladder braced.


Original bone nut and original tuners.
 

Bound, dyed-hardwood (maple?) board, brass frets, and faux-pearl dots. I dressed and leveled the frets, though they still have plenty of life left.


I always liked the simple soundhole decorations on Chicago-made guitars. This one just has multi-ply binding, just like its outer top edges. The pickguard is actually reminiscent of 30s and 40s 2nd-line Gibsons (Kalamazoo, Cromwell, Oriole, whatnot).


As usual for the time, Harmony bolted these bridges in addition to glue. Fortunately, on this model year, washers were installed on the underside, meaning the bolts are Harmless if they ever actually get tension applied to them from a lifting bridge. This bridge is still glued down quite well, though.




The back and sides have good-looking mahogany.



After a lube, the tuners work well. Note the music store label between the plates. An old owner also scratched some ID numbers into one of the tuner plates and the top of the headstock, too. They're not obvious.


The neck set is perfectly good to go.



Original endpin and note all the scuffing and finish chipping on this lower bout edge -- someone was putting this guitar down on the ground, apparently, or had a strap with a metal catch that dug into it when it was put in the case. That's how that happens.

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